Do you ever wake up in the morning, neck tense, and jaw sore, feeling like you didn’t get enough sleep and the sleep you got actually makes you feel worse? Judging by the areas of pain, like neck and jaw, you might be having orthodontic issues. These can range from malocclusion (misaligned bite) to TMJ to sleep apnea, and they can wreak havoc on the rest your body needs.
WHAT IS MALOCCLUSION?
Malocclusion refers to poor or incorrect teeth alignment between the upper and lower jaws. The position of the teeth often results in pain when biting and chewing normally. Patients with this condition often have an overbite, underbite, or crossbite and not only does this affect the aesthetics of the bite, but can severely impact functionality. If left untreated, malocclusion can lead to issues like difficulty in chewing, speech problems and increased risk of oral health and sleep quality problems
WHAT IS TMJ?
Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders, which are often caused by jaw misalignment or jaw clenching, lead to pain during and after sleep. TMJ often manifests in people who grind their teeth while they are sleeping. Signs of TMJ pain include, jaw pain, ear pain, facial pain, pain with chewing, and locking of the joint.
WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
Sleep apnea is a disorder where a person stops breathing every so often while they sleep. The interruptions are called apneas and they can last from seconds to minutes, disrupting normal sleep patterns. One way this manifests is through obstructive sleep apnea, where the throat muscles relax to the point of actually blocking the airway. You can imagine how that could jolt a person awake in the middle of the night. Another manifestation is central sleep apnea, where the brain fails to signal breathing muscles to breathe. Again, it’s easy to see how this disorder would cause significant health issues with symptoms like snoring, choking sensations, fatigue, and possibly even cardiovascular problems. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines and lifestyle changes are common treatments for sleep apnea symptoms.
How Treatment Can Help Orthodontic Issues
TREATMENTS THAT CORRECT MALOCCLUSION
Some orthodontists recommend braces or clear aligners to correct malocclusion, which can help the aesthetics of the smile as well as overall oral health due to how these treatments gently reposition teeth. This treatment then helps realign the jaw and improve the airway.
TREATMENTS THAT CORRECT TMJ
Many orthodontists suggest night guards or splints to prevent teeth grinding or clenching during the night. Other treatment plans include braces or clear aligners, and in severe cases of jaw misalignment, orthognathic surgery may be recommended.
Learn about how we helped Chris address her teeth grinding and pain associated with TMJ in this recent post or watch the video below:
TREATMENTS THAT CORRECT SLEEP APNEA
One intervention that helps improve sleep apnea is mandibular advancement devices (MADs). These custom-made devices are designed to be worn while sleeping and function to prevent a collapse of the upper airway by holding the lower jaw slightly forward. This helps reduce snoring and breathing pauses. Some people find MADs more comfortable than continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, but others find that it separates their teeth too much in the process.
For this reason, it’s beneficial to consult with a sleep medicine specialist or an orthodontist experienced in treating orthodontic issues that cause sleep disorders. A medical professional can assess how serious your sleep condition is and recommend an approach that includes orthodontic procedures, lifestyle modifications, other medical devices, and even surgery.
Tips for Orthodontic Treatment in Your Journey for Better Sleep
MAINTAIN A CONSISTENT ORAL HYGIENE ROUTINE
This step is crucial before, during, and after orthodontic treatment! Good oral hygiene not only helps braces do their job well, it also minimizes any discomfort and can contribute to better quality sleep.
GO TO YOUR ORTHODONTIST REGULARLY
Keeping regular appointments with your orthodontist ensures there are multiple check-ins along your orthodontic journey where you can address any concerns. Staying proactive during your treatment helps us keep you on track and aware of the progress you are making.
Sleep and orthodontics have several connections, and understanding them can make the difference between poor and great quality of sleep. In these cases, investing in treatment does more than improve cosmetics, but can significantly improve sleep, well-being, and oral health.
If you’re interested in making a change for a better sleep experience, or want to learn more about what it would take, give us a call to schedule an appointment. You can start right now with our 3 Easy Steps in our SmileSnap app.